House Renews Warrantless Surveillance Powers

Despite Trump tweeting against bill officially supported by White House
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2018 12:45 PM CST
House Renews Surveillance Powers Despite Trump Tweet
President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Washington. Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets abroad.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Despite some presidential Twitter drama, the House voted to extend the government's powers of warrantless surveillance another six years on Tuesday with a 256-164 vote, the Hill reports. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the NSA to collect from US companies texts and emails of foreign targets, even when those targets are communicating with Americans. The legislation was opposed by privacy advocates, and Republican Rep. Justin Amash introduced changes that would have forced authorities to get warrants before obtaining information on Americans caught in the surveillance, according to the Washington Post. Those changes were voted down 183-233. The Senate is expected to vote on and pass a Section 702 renewal before it expires Jan. 19.

The vote wasn't without drama. President Trump sent House Republicans scrambling ahead of the vote when he tweeted that Section 702 "may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others." Trump's tweet came after the president watched a related segment on Fox News and despite the White House's official support for the legislation. About 90 minutes later he reversed course. "Today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land," Trump tweeted. "We need it! Get smart!" NPR takes a closer look at what Trump was talking about in his tweets, determining the president's "comments throw together a rat's nest of related, semi-related, and unrelated strands." (More Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act stories.)

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